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Religion and Psychoactive Sacraments:
An Entheogen Chrestomathy

Thomas B. Roberts, Ph.D. and Paula Jo Hruby, Ed.D.
Author Index | Title Index

Religion, Altered States of Consciousness, and Social Change.

Bourguignon, Erika. (Editor). (1973).
Columbus, OH: Ohio University Press.

ISBN: 0-8142-0167-9

Contents: Preface, introduction, 8 chapters in 3 parts: 1. Cross-Cultural and Comparative Studies, 2. Field Studies, 3. Some Conclusions, epilogue, appendix: Codes [of ritualized altered states of consciousness] Used Below, list of 488 sample societ ies [by societal characteristics, name, code, differentiation], notes on the contributors, index.

Contributors: Erika Bourguignon, Lenora Greenbaum, Judith Danford Gussler, Anne P. Leonard, Esther Pressel.

Excerpt(s): In studying institutionalized altered states of consciousness, for the most part in traditional societies and in a sacred context, are we dealing with a rare and exotic phenomenon of interest only to specialists, a bit of anthropological esoterica? Or are we dealing with a major aspect of human behavior that has significant impact on the functioning of human societies? ... Table 1 ... shows that of a sample of 488 societies, in all parts of the world, for which we have analyzed the relevant ethnographic literature, 437, or 90% are reported to have one or more institutionalized, culturally patterned forms of altered states of consciousness. ...

The incidence of altered states is seen to range from a high of 97% of the societies of aboriginal North America to a low of 80% in the Circum-Mediterranean region. The later region includes North Africa, the Near East, and southern and western Europe as well as overseas Europeans. (pages 9, 11)

Such upheavals appear to justify the fear of loss of control, for in the upheavals not only does the individual relinquish, as in altered states of consciousness generally, partial or complete ego control over his actions but social control as well is distorted. Thus, it is necessary to distinguish such wild-fire, short-lived, trance upheavals not only from stable religious groups that make use of institutionalized altered states within a ritual framework but also from those movements-revitalization movements, millennial movements, and so on-that reach a degree of organizational structure and gain control over the religious and ecstatic experiences of their members. (page 342)

However, the greatest attention has been attracted by the so-called drug movement, by the attempt to link hallucinogenic drugs (LSD, peyote, psilocybin, and so on) to religious, predominantly Hindu-derived thought systems. The drugs, it was argued, particularly by Leary and his associates, assisted in the "expansion of consciousness," a concept that has since been widely extended by Reich's view of the emergence of a "Consciousness III" ... "consciousness raising" sessions of women's libbers, encounter groups, and others.

Although deviant religious movements of various sorts have frequently appeared on the American scene, as we have said, they have had marginal impact or have transformed themselves, becoming less deviant and moving into the mainstream. (page 344)

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